Jeff Fitzharris, or simply Fitz, as his friends call him, is a local artist and businessman making a big movement in the local Charleston community.
Fitzharris, an artist known for his work at local restaurant and bar Prohibition on King Street (he’s the talent behind the Charleston artwork on their fences) is putting his creative skill towards a new venture. Alongside business partner Laura Misenhelter, President and Chairman of the Board at Charleston Autism Academy (CAA), Fitzharris has launched a movement in Charleston with his screenprinting of "There’s No Place Like Charleston" T-shirts, hats, and more.
In his Mount Pleasant studio, he creates his own screen prints and then uses his six-screen, six-color, two-station silk screenprinting machine to create a variety of designs to showcase the pleasant community of Charleston. I was fortunate enough to get a tour of his studio along and learn to screenprint my own T-shirt. The process is interesting and involves pressing hard to make sure your screen print is deeply embedded into the fibers of the shirt. After that, it is laid on a portable upright mini-oven to make sure it is finished so you can wear and wash!
I asked Jeff to tell me more about his company, brand, and love for Charleston and here's what he had to say:
JF: I moved here 6 years ago and have been doing freelance artwork and large scale murals for the past 20 years. In the words of Joseph Campbell, I am ''Following My Bliss''. I fell in Love with Charleston during my childhood. We would vacation here every year. I am originally from Andy Warhol's home town of Pittsburgh, PA. My father went to the Citadel in 1961. When it came time, I always kind of knew I would plant my roots here.
Shortly after moving here, I realized how one could make a fun and still very art/pop art-filled living by selling T-shirts. I mean, 4 million people visit here, every year. ''There's No Place Like Charleston'' arrived like a bolt from the blue. Creative minds will be the first to understand—you never know when inspiration will hit you.
Three summers ago now is when it hit me in the middle of creating a mural for a now very well known little ''speak easy'' located at 547 King Street—Prohibition. Silk-screening is a very constant and repetitive process. To some, this type of work can really wear personally on the spirit. To others, like young adults with autism, this experience can be fun, creative, and supply emotional security. There is a comfort in knowing where everything is, and where everything is going to be, and where it will be tomorrow. I teamed up with Laura Misenhelter in November of last year. This is a joint effort with CAA. The silk screen company is In Gratitude Always LLC. It is indeed a "for profit" company which trains and employs a demographic who may go through life without ever testing or challenging their personal potential. It's the same day every day at In Gratitude Always LLC.
Laura's son Aaron is now 18 this year. He has autism. The victory is that he is screen printing and beginning a purpose-filled life! The repetitive nature of silk screening is an atmosphere where Aaron is truly thriving. "There's No Place Like Charleston" is not just a fun shirt that speaks the truth about Charleston, it is the fuel that makes the silk screen wheel turn at In Gratitude Always LLC.
What if the company Life is Good did the Tom's Shoes thing for autism? The difference is we are training and employing our worthy cause. In Gratitude Always is exactly why "There's No Place Like Charleston."
We had an amazing first summer season with our T-shirts. I am also very blessed and thankful that we have been embraced by the local community, but in a way, this does not surprise me—embracing community is just something Charleston does.
It is often said that people are the same everywhere, but the sincere and friendly people of Charleston are the very reason that our city has become the world class destination that it is today. Authenticity can be defined as the degree to which one is true to one's own spirit. So wherever you are from, leave your guarded city ways behind, and come on in, the water here is fine.
"There's No Place Like Charleston."
Please join us in celebrating the authenticity of Charleston, South Carolina on September 5th. Palmetto Brewing Company hosts the ''There's No Place Like Charleston: Endless Summer Event'' with amazing original and authentic music brought to you by Awendaw Green. This is an extremely family friendly event from 3-10p.m. Local slices will be available from Zombie Bob's Pizza food truck parked in front of the brewery. Holy City Popcorn will also be there! We will also have a big table filled with ''There's No Place Like Charleston" Endless Summer T-shirts and posters available for purchase.
In short, "There's No Place Like Charleston" and In Gratitude Always LLC is off to an amazing beginning. Aaron Misenhelter is the first of many to begin a purpose-filled life. If we keep going like this, my 21 year old god daughter Tori could move down here to begin printing as well.